MORE THAN 1,300 Filipino workers from overseas came home at the weekend amid a coronavirus pandemic that has sickened seven million and killed more than 400,000 people worldwide, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The agency welcomed 1,320 overseas Filipinos from the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Barbados and Nigeria, it said.
Of the total, 428 were stranded workers in the UAE and Hong Kong, who arrived on three separate flights on Saturday. Meanwhile, 345 Filipino seafarers from Barbados also came home on Saturday at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga province, DFA said.
This brings the total number of overseas Filipinos who have come home to more 36,000 since the government started its repatriation program in February, it said.
The workers underwent medical checkup and will undergo a 14-day quarantine at health facilities approved by the Bureau of Quarantine.
Critics earlier slammed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) after thousands of overseas Filipino workers were stranded at quarantine facilities in Metro Manila for two-months.
This prompted President Rodrigo R. Duterte to order the Labor and Health departments to send 24,000 workers to their hometowns.
Meanwhile, DFA said eight more Filipino workers abroad have been infected with the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 5,369. The agency said 2,781 patients were being treated, 2,225 have recovered and 363 have died.
Also yesterday, the Philippine Coast Guard said more than 53,000 returning Filipinos from overseas had tested negative for the coronavirus disease 2019.
The migrant workers would be allowed to go home to their home provinces, it said in a statement on Sunday.
“Returning overseas Filipinos who are included in the master list are advised to coordinate with the PCG or OWWA personnel to process their return to their province or city,” it said.
The workers will be issued quarantine clearances at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange or at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on Friday said the government would limit the arrival of Filipino workers from overseas to 1,200 daily after reports of congestion at facilities in Metro Manila.
He said they wanted to control the entry of returning overseas Filipinos including seafarers as 42,000 more were expected to arrive.
Mr. Lorenzana said they would increase the limit to 1,500 or 2,000 and expedite their clearance once the capacity is increased, according to a taped meeting with Mr. Duterte aired last week.
Returning OFWs will only now have to stay in Metro Manila for five days before being sent home, assuming they are coronavirus-free, the Defense chief said. He added that there were now enough coronavirus testing facilities.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III on Tuesday said more than 300,000 OFWs had been displaced by the global pandemic. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas